Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Be Encouraged!

Romans 15:1-33

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We\'ve been talking a lot about getting along in a hostile environment. That, to use an old adage, honey attracts more flies than vinegar. To be a compliant citizen of your nation, even when it doesn\'t reflect the character of God very well, is a good thing because it allows the spotlight to be on Jesus rather than on you as you assert your rights.

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In the body of Christ Paul encourages us not to make a big deal of things that aren\'t-to know when to make an issue of the differences between us. When it involves debatable practices and lifestyle-it\'s better to help bring peace and strengthening, than to insist on our own way.

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That being said, Paul concludes this section of the practical application of being a willing sacrifice by coming back to the One we should most emulate: Jesus Christ. Jesus really had two natures that He displayed. One was welcoming, and the other was exhortational, even judgmental at times. Jesus was kind and gentle to the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11) but harsh and angry toward the money changers who had turned God\'s house into a den of thieves (Matthew 21:13).

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Matt 11:28-30 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.? 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.? 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.\"

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And yet He also said:

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Matt 23:15 \"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. NKJV

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What\'s the difference? To those who realized their lack and were open to the Lord, Jesus was open. To those who had closed their hearts, and were busy taking others away from knowing the One True God, He was unrelenting.

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I think in some ways that is a good principle for us. If someone is sincerely in error and you can tell is open to instruction, then by all means, wrestle in the Scriptures with them.

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Apollos: Acts 18:26 When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

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On the other hand, you may encounter churches, ministries, and Christians who are pretty set in their ways, and they do not fall in line with Scripture. You might try to reason with them from the Word, but in the end, you may be better served to \"switch rather than fight.\" (to change an old ad slogan).

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In Acts 15:36-41 Paul had such a huge argument with Barnabas over Mark that they split ways. Time and wisdom prevailed and eventually Paul reconciled with John Mark. Sometimes we do more damage in the process of fighting than the original dispute called for.

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So pick your battles well. If others are being led seriously astray, perhaps it\'s time for action, but always know when you are no longer being effective.

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That brings us back to chapter 15. Here Paul gives the final argument about why we should not judge those in the body of Christ who are different in the way they approach their walk.

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1 - 3

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Are you strong in the Lord? Use that strength to love, rather than judge. People will fail, and they will fail us. It really isn\'t all about us. And again, this isn\'t just a \"I\'ve got to do whatever anyone else wants\" kind of argument - notice how Paul couches it in terms of \"please his neighbor for his good.\"

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In chapter 14 he says (19) \"So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.\" Sometimes the \"good\" your neighbor needs is a real exhortation to leave off the flesh and dedicate themselves anew to God, even if that means you don\'t get invited over to watch the game on his monster 65\" HDTV anymore.

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Even further, following the example of Jesus, He let our failings fall on Him. (Psalms 69:9 For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me\"). So if someone is a jerk to you, don\'t lash back. Perhaps that person is hurting so badly they don\'t know any other way to act. They\'re undergoing trials and aren\'t yet mature enough to understand God\'s purposes so they fight back at you and say all kinds of bad things to you. Shrug it off. Let it go.

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4 - 7

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I love verse 4. This verse is one of the reasons why I think it is so vital to study the Old Testament. We think of it as dry and boring-just a list of laws and stories featuring people with unpronounceable names. Well, that might be true-but what we fail to understand is that every page is really a picture of Jesus. Every story is really the story of God\'s plan for saving a sinful human race. And there are so many things to challenge and encourage us. That\'s why I love our Wednesday studies so much. The Old Testament is a treasure trove of lessons on how to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.

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So here Paul says the instruction and encouragement of the Scriptures gives us two things: patience and hope. The Scriptures would instruct the Jewish believers that God has not abandoned holiness, but they would encourage the Gentiles that God has not abandoned them (more on this in a moment). They instruct the Jews that Jesus fulfilled all parts of the Law and so they need not worry and squabble. They would also encourage the Gentiles to lend a loving hand to their Jewish brethren, not a hand slap for not being \"free\" from the dietary and ceremonial laws. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

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Like Jesus, we should have the attitude of \"what can I do to help you do better in the Lord?\" That holds true, in the case of the Romans, for Jew as well as Gentile.

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8 - 12

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God promised Abram that his descendants would be as the sand of the seashore. He promised David that his kingdom would be eternal. He promised to be a deliverer to His people and give them rest and peace. All these and many more promises are kept in Jesus. God keeps his promises! And for the Jews, that included the command \"you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.\" (Lev 11:45). The Jews may have thought that because the Gentiles didn\'t need to follow the dietary and ceremonial laws that God was abandoning holiness. God had not abandoned His law, He fulfilled it in Jesus, and then in us through Him.

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That doesn\'t leave out us Gentiles. To us God has shown His great mercy that while we were outsiders, God has adopted us as sons (Romans 8:12-27) and grafted us into to those same promises to the patriarchs (Romans 11:17). God is to be praised for His mercy! The Gentiles might have felt that because they were not Jews and did not want to approach God through the dietary and ceremonial laws, that God would leave them out. Not so. As we\'ve discussed much in Romans, God\'s mercy brings the same righteousness to us, apart from the Law.

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Verse 9 comes from David in 2 Samuel 22:50 when he rejoiced in God delivering him from his enemies.

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Verse 10 is from the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:43 about how God protects His children and wins battles for them against our enemies. (it is a textual variant rejoice with him, \"O nations\", rather than \"O heavens\")

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Verse 11 is Psalm 117:1 about the steadfast love of the Lord.

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Verse 12 is from Isaiah 11:10-11, speaking of Jesus the Messiah as the one who will reclaim his people from among the nations.

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13

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Then there is this great verse-what a benediction! Hope, remember, is not a wish, but an as yet unfulfilled but certain promise. We can have hope that God will fulfill His promise to us of new life, cleansing, victory, and that we are always loved and accepted by God-and through the Holy Spirit this leads to us overflow with hope. This is what our focus should be on. And it puts the small differences between us in a whole different light.

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Paul isn\'t trying to chastise them too severely, as we see next.

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14 - 17

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Paul says \"your motivations are good, and you know what God is like, to the point of being able to help each other know Him better.\" Instead of stern correction, Paul brings a gentle reminder. I like that. Many times it is better to come alongside and encourage someone, remind them of truths the already know, to readjust their course just a little bit, to avoid fighting against each other, and start fighting against the real enemy who is trying to keep souls from heaven!

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Paul considered his ministry to the Gentiles to be a priestly duty-\"working with sacred things\" because the gospel is sacred and holy-so that we would become acceptable to God through Jesus.

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18 - 21

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Paul had a charge from God to bring the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). He isn\'t boasting, he is just rejoicing in the good thing that God has done through him. His charge was to boldly go where no man has gone before J but that doesn\'t mean we don\'t build on what others have done. (1 Cor 3:6 \"I planted, Apollos waters, but God caused the growth\").

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By the way, Paul counted his area of ministry out from Jerusalem to Illyricum, which is modern day Yugoslavia.

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22 - 29

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As we saw in our study of Acts, Paul had basically done the work of establishing local churches throughout the region. Rather than rest on his laurels, he wants new territory! This is where we get the idea that Paul wanted to come to Rome so that it could become a launching point for missions to Spain.

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Paul first had to go to Jerusalem to bring a financial gift to help the saints in need there. This is referred to in several places in Acts and Paul\'s letters (including Acts 24:17, 1 Cor 16:1-4, 2 Cor 9:13). This was not the first time Paul had done this - about 10 years earlier he had taken a gift to Jerusalem during a famine (Acts 11:30).

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And I like the fact that Paul says there is nothing wrong in sharing material blessings for the spiritual blessings you receive. We\'ve gone way overboard in shaking people down for money before giving them a spiritual blessing. I think if a body or ministry is making you stronger in your understanding of and walk with God then that\'s the time to share.

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30 - 33

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Paul had good reason to worry about his visit to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22). Indeed, while there he was arrested and thrown into prison. He got to Rome, but chained to a Roman soldier. Their prayers were answered, though, as the Jews sought to kill Paul, but the Lord, through various circumstances, got Paul safely out of Jerusalem and out of Israel all together.

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Conclusions

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The main point of this chapter is that we should adopt the same attitude as Jesus in letting go of the things we see in others that bother us that don\'t really matter in the big picture and work towards the things make for peace and upbuilding in others.

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But I also want to make two points about the Scriptures here. For those who are more legalistic in their approach (like the Jewish believers), seeing the freedoms others have in Christ can make us feel like the church isn\'t worried about being holy anymore. And for those of us who feel freedom in Christ and in our conscience, we worry that the church is so legalistic that it\'s falling back under the Law.

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As Paul said, the Scriptures are given to instruct and encourage. Be instructed that God\'s standard has not changed. Sometimes we are confused as to what it means to be like God, but holiness is and always has been the goal. But at the same time, be encouraged that if we love Jesus, He lives in us and is changing us. He is the Law and He lives in us!

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